Robert Steel's deal to sell Wachovia Corp.'s banking business to Citigroup Inc. a week ago may have given the Charlotte company's chief executive the confidence and the breathing room he needed to turn around days later and sign a competing deal to sell his entire company to Wells Fargo & Co., analysts say.

Whether intentional or not, analysts speculate that when Citi announced its plan to take over Wachovia's banking business, with support from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., on Sept. 25, the mere announcement bolstered customer confidence, helping to minimize the likelihood of a run on deposits at the faltering company.

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